My insulin pump is mostly a treasure. Except that lately it’s been driving. me. insane.
PUMP IS NOT PRIMED
This error message, with a vibrating Bzzzz, appears on my pump screen several times a week, and sometimes several times a day.
This message is unwarranted and I would like very much if it would leave me alone.
Unfortunately, it pops up at the most inconvenient moments. Like when I’m standing at a crowded bus stop, bundled underneath a big green jacket. How does one access her pump site, let alone prime it, in an outdoor public space?
For those of you who don’t know, “priming” refers to the act of squirting insulin into the air from whatever contraption is delivering your insulin. Once you do that, it’s primed and ready to deliver insulin to you… until you see an error message that says:
PUMP IS NOT PRIMED
So if you’re standing at a bus stop in New York in December, you’d have to undress in the cold, disconnect the cannula from your body, point a needle in the air, squirt medicinal liquid out, and plug yourself back in.
I called my pump provider and told them about my priming issues. The customer support representative was very sweet as she and I trouble-shooted.
If I understood her correctly, here are some possibilities as to why the error message could appear:
- Cartridge cap is not tightly secured
- At the time of your site change, you are not pulling the cartridge plunger back and forth with air to lubricate it before filling with insulin
- You are using expired insulin, or insulin that is not at room temperature
- You are refilling or overusing cartridges
- There is a sudden change in force (i.e. pump dropped), or temperature (more than a 40 degree jump)
I am innocent of reasons 1 through 4. The only possibility, I told her, was number 5. Although I doubted that there was a 40 degree difference between inside and outside, I told her about my experience at the bus stop. The priming error popped up just a few minutes after I walked out into the cold. She asked if the pump was in my pocket. I told her yes. She said that wasn’t the issue then, because my pump would have still been warm.
She suggested that I try using a cartridge/plunger from a different box because sometimes a box can come from a faulty lot. She said that if I have even one loss of prime from the new box, I should call back immediately – I guess for more trouble shooting, or for a pump replacement.
Speaking of plungers, and other reasons why my pump is making me crazy…
My daughter often plunges at me, head on, for a big cozy snuggle. And sometimes her head hits the darn pump that’s hiding under my clothing. The poor thing points to her head and says “Boo Boo.”
I try to be serious when I tell her, “Watch out for Mommy’s pump!” As if it’s a common toddler problem alongside, “Honey, watch your fingers!” Or, “Sweetie, don’t eat the garbage off the floor!” But I know that most toddlers can plunge at their mommies and not have to worry about their head meeting a hard, clunky object.
That makes me sad. I need to be more careful too.
On the flip side, I know that Maya is only 20 months, but I think my pump has taught her a lot. Firstly, it has built her vocabulary. How many toddlers know what an insulin pump is? She proudly points at it and says, “Pum!”
Second, when I change my site, Maya often sits nearby and watches with wide open eyes. At some point in the process, she leans in and gives me a kiss, or says “Aww,” or pats my arm. Somehow she understands that I have a Boo Boo of my own – and that I have to do this even though I don’t like it. That’s a big lesson for a little girl. So I guess you can say that my pump, and diabetes, is beginning to teach Maya empathy, which isn’t too shabby.
I better go open a fresh box of cartridges.